In the Year 2889 Ebook
Title: In the Year 2889
Author: Jules Verne
Editor's Notes by Blake Linton Wilfong
In 1885, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., owner of the New York Herald (the same man who sent Stanley to Africa to find Livingstone) asked Jules Verne to write a short story about life in the United States a thousand years hence. Ironically, the resulting tale was not printed until 1889--and not in the New York Herald.
It is an unusual work in every way. Verne wrote few short stories, and no others first published in English. In contrast to his conservative, plodding SF novels, "In the Year 2889" dashes wildly from one fanciful extrapolation to another. Experts believe Jules' son Michel may have authored part of the story.
Many of the predictions for the year 2889 have already come true. Verne's dystopian concept of one man brought to vast power and wealth through widely distributed intellectual property brings to mind names like Samuel Newhouse and Bill Gates. There are also glimmerings of later science fiction themes, including suspended animation and turning the moon around a la Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End (1953).
Of course Verne also made mistakes, and some of his predictions simply have not come to pass. But give them time: there are nearly nine centuries left before the year 2889.
Little though they seem to think of it, the people of this 29th century live continually in fairyland. Surrounded with marvels, they are indifferent to marvels. To them all seems natural. Could they but appreciate the refinements of civilization in our day; could they but compare the present with the past, and recognize the advances we have made! How much fairer they would find our modern towns, with populations exceeding 10,000,000 souls; steets 300 feet wide, houses
100 feet high; with a constant temperature in all seasons; and lines of aerial locomotion crossing the sky in all directions! If they could but imagine the state of things that once existed, when through muddy streets rumbling boxes on wheels, drawn by horses--yes, horses!--were the only means of conveyance. Think of the railroads of old, and you will appreciate the pneumatic tubes through which today we travel at 100 miles an hour. Would not our contemporaries prize the telephone and telephote more, had they not forgotten the telegraph?
Surprisingly, all these transformations rest on principles perfectly familiar to our remote ancestors, which they disregarded. Heat, for instance, is as ancient as man himself; electricity was known 3000 years ago, and steam 1100. Nay, so early as 10 centuries ago it was known that the differences between the several chemical and physical forces depend on the mode of vibration of etheric particles, which is for each specifically different. When at last the kinship of all these forces was discovered, it is simply astounding that 500 years still elapsed before men could analyze and describe the distinct modes of vibration that constitute these differences. Above all, it is amazing that the method of reproducing these forces directly from one another, and of reproducing one without the others, should have remained undiscovered till less than a century ago. Nevertheless, such was the course of events, for it was not till the year
2792 that the famous Oswald Nier made this discovery. Truly was he a great benefactor of the human race. His admirable discovery led to many others. Hence is sprung a pleiad of inventors, its brightest star our great Joseph Jackson. To Jackson we are indebted those wonderful instruments--the new accumulators. Some of these absorb and condense the living force contained in the sun's rays; others, the electricity stored in our globe; others again, energy from whatever source: waterfalls, streams, wind, etc. He, too, invented the transformer, a more wonderful contrivance still, which takes the living force from the accumulator, and, at the touch of a button, returns it to space in any form desired, whether as heat, light, electricity, or mechanical force, after having first obtained from it the work required. From the day these two instruments were contrived should be dated the era of true progress. They have put into the hands of man almost infinite power. As for their applications, they are numberless. Mitigating the rigors of winter, by giving back to the atmosphere the surplus heat stored up during the summer, they have revolutionized agriculture. Supplying motive power for aerial navigation, they have given to commerce a mighty impetus. To them we are indebted for the continuous production of electricity without batteries or dynamos, of light without combustion or incandescence, and for an unfailing supply of mechanical energy for the needs of industry.
Yes, the accumulator and the transformer have wrought all these wonders. And can we not to them also trace, indirectly, this latest wonder of all, the great
"Earth Chronicle" building on 253rd Avenue, which was dedicated the other day? If George Washington Smith, founder of the Manhattan "Chronicle", should come back to life today, what would he think when told that this place of marble and gold belongs to his remote descendant, Fritz Napoleon Smith, who, after 30 generations, is owner of the same newpaper that his ancestor established! For George Washington Smith's newspaper has lived generation after generation, now passing out of the family, anon coming back to it. When, 200 years ago, the political center of the United States was transferred from Washington to Centropolis, the newspaper followed the government and assumed the name of Earth Chronicle. Unfortunately, it was unable to maintain itself at the high level of its name. Pressed on all sides by more modern rival journals, it was continually in danger of collapse. 20 years ago its subscription list contained but a few hundred thousand names, and then Mr. Fritz Napoleon bought it for a mere trifle, and originated telephonic journalism. Everyone is familiar with Fritz Napoleon Smith's system--a system made possible by the enormous development of telephony during the last hundred years. Instead of being printed, the Earth Chronicle is every morning spoken to subscribers, who, from interesting conversations with reporters, statesmen and scientists, discover the news of the day. Furthermore, each subscriber owns a phonograph, and to this instrument he leaves the task of gathering the news whenever he happens not to be in a mood to listen directly himself. As for purchasers of single copies, they can at a nominal cost discover all that is in the paper of the day at any of the innumerable phonographs set up nearly everywhere. Fritz Napoleon Smith's innovation galvanized the old newspaper. In the course of a few years the number of subscribers grew to 85,000,000 and Smith's wealth went on growing, till now it reaches the almost unimaginable figure of
$10,000,000,000. This lucky hit has enabled him to erect his new building, a vast edifice with four facades, each 3250 feet in length, over which proudly floats the hundred-starred flag of the Union. Thanks to the same lucky hit, he is today king of newspaperdom; indeed, he would be king of America, too, if Americans could ever accept a king. You do not believe it? Well, then, look at the plenipotentiaries of all nations and our own ministers themselves crowding about his door, entreating his counsels, begging for his approbation, imploring the aid of his all-powerful organ. Add up the number of scientists and artists he supports, of inventors under his pay. Yes, a king is he. And in truth his is a royalty full of burdens. His labors are incessant, and, doubtless, in earlier times any man would have succumbed under the overpowering stress Mr. Smith endures. Fortunately for him, thanks to the progress of hygiene, which, abating all the old sources of disease, has lifted human life expectancy from 37 up to 52 years, men have stronger constitutions now than heretofore. The discovery of nutritive air remains in the future, but in the meantime men today consume food scientifically compounded and prepared, and breathe an atmosphere free of the microoganisms that once swarmed in it; hence they live longer than their forefathers and know nothing of the innumerable ailments of olden times. Nevertheless, Fritz Napoleon Smith's mode of life may well astonish one. His iron constitution is taxed to the utmost by the heavy strain upon it. Vain the attempt to estimate the amount of labor he undergoes; only an example can give an idea of it. Let us go about with him for one day as he attends to his multifarious concerns.
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